Texas High Performance School Consortium
The mission of the Texas High Performance School Consortium is to develop and implement methods for transforming public schools in the state by improving student learning through innovative, next-generation learning standards, assessments and accountability.
The learning standards have to reflect the change in the assessment process. We need to pair down the large number of standards and look for common core standards that will be used cross-curricular as well as content specific supporting standards by subject and grade level. One idea was to take Texas Standards, College/Career Readiness Standards and those from one or two successful countries for a side-by-side comparison, document those standards that all/most have in common and start there to develop what will be used by the consortium. The consensus of the consortium is that the standards put in place give the teacher the discretion needed to create and implement 21st century lessons that incorporate the use of technology, collaboration and relevance. These standards and supporting standards will not be limited in scope as to allow for assessment through true/false and multiple-choice answers to be used to show mastery.
Assessments (Evidence of Learning)
“We have learned that if we do new work but use old assessments, the old assessments will take us back to the old work.” –The Schlechty Center
Student assessment is the core of Texas Educators dissatisfaction with the direction of Public Education. The use of 20th century tools to assess 21st century learning is not a forward thinking model for preparing our students for tomorrow’s challenges. When the new Learning Standards are in place, the process of documenting mastery will be a multi-method approach. The term “evidence of learning” better describes the goal of the new process. Daily grades, unit tests, collaborative projects, semester exams and final exams will all be part of the documentation that a student is equipped with the knowledge to move to the next grade level or life choice after high school. Students will chronicle this information in electronic portfolios that can be accessed at any time to determine the quality of work being produced. With this in mind, the majority of the assessment process will be the responsibility of the local school district (local control) and the district will be responsible to the local community to document and certify the successful competition/mastery of the learning standards.
There has to be a new concept for the accountability of school districts if the assessment process is going to be moved to the local level. Accountability for the education of each individual student becomes the responsibility of the local district and State Accountability will be a process by which school districts remain accredited/eligible to receive state/federal funds. All of the systems described in the assessment process will be subject to desk or site audits by the Texas Education Agency. The audit will not be so in depth as to look at the records of every student but will take a random sample of graduates and 3-11 grade students to determine if the district is meeting the requirements for mastery of the learning standards. Standardized testing was discussed and will have a role in this process. An option would be to test in grade 4, 7 and 10. The purpose of the test would be for to add information for the District’s Accreditation but not have any bearing on the grade or promotion of the student being tested. Districts that meet the requirements of the audit maintain their status as an Accredited Texas Public School District. Those that fall short of the requirements will enter into a process of required improvement before losing accreditation and funding. There will not be a competitive system of ratings for schools. Each district will have to meet the expectations of the community that it serves.
This is the start of a “messy process” to create something new in the public school system. The ideas and direction I have shared in this document are just my observations of where we are at this time. This consortium is charged with the task of changing a process, and in so doing, changing a culture that has been in place for over two decades. The system will change, grow and evolve over the next year of planning and then change, grow and evolve over the next four years of implementation.
The work of the consortium is about the three areas addressed in this document. There are many things about the daily operation of school that will not appear any different. Observations, evaluations of personnel, high expectations and documented student achievement will still be the standard of White Oak ISD. The plus side is that our teachers will have more days to provide instruction, greater freedom to look deeper into the learning standards, as opposed to skimming the top and making sure all areas are “touched” in the current process.
It is my plan to keep you informed as this process continues to mature and develop into the next generation Texas Public School Accountability System. It is my hope that as the process continues, there will be opportunities for campus principals and teachers to collaborate with their peers within the consortium on next generation teaching methods. Working together as a cohort, I am confident that a new system can be created and implemented for the 200,000 students represented in the 23 school districts. The success of this consortium will then translate to a new and more effective evidence of learning and accountability system for the 5 million students of the State of Texas.